People have been drinking tea for centuries, and some cultures have developed tea ceremonies to make tea. Countries that perform tea ceremonies include Great Britain, Russia, Japan, and China. The most common method used to make tea is to pour hot water over the tea leaves and let the mixture steep or brew for several minutes. Water is sometimes poured directly over the tea leaves, which must be strained from the water after brewing. Tea is often placed into paper sachets, cloth pouches, or small metal containers called tea balls so that it won’t have to be strained after it is brewed.
Some people make tea without using hot water. They first put the tea into a container and fill it with ambient temperature water. The container is then covered and set outside in the sun. Heat from the sun causes the flavor from the tea to infuse the water. Tea brewed this way is commonly known as sun tea.
Many people use a tea kettle for boiling the water to make tea, but Russians use a samovar. This is a metal urn with a spigot near the bottom and a small chimney on the top. The water inside a samovar is heated by a pipe filled with fuel that runs through the center of the urn. A teapot filled with water and tea leaves is placed on top of the samovar. The tea brews inside the teapot as heat rises from the samovar.
Tea brewed using a teapot on a samovar is concentrated, so Russians dilute the tea from the teapot by adding water from the samovar. It is common to make different teas in separate teapots and then mix them all together. The various teas represent different conditions, such as romance, prosperity, and health. It is believed that drinking these teas will imbue one with those qualities.
When the Japanese make tea during their traditional tea ceremonies, each movement is precise and occurs in a certain order. A whisk is used to mix the powdered tea into the water. The environment is simple, and the only ornamentation is usually flowers or calligraphy and the ceremonial utensils. Tea is served to guests in special bowls. The Japanese tea ceremony is considered an art form that may take many years for the host or hostess to perfect.
People in China like to drink pure tea without adding any other ingredients. In America and Great Britain, it is customary to make tea with milk and sugar. Some people use lemon to flavor their tea instead of milk.